Fatalities resulting from coronavirus have created new challenges as cities figure out how to bury their dead. Around the world, city and hospital morgues are at capacity and demands for burial plots are growing. This is one of the most morbid consequences of the pandemic, and it’s caused an especially heavy strain in Ecuador, where the government is working to find solutions for the hard-hit region of northern Guayaquil.
The Guayas province, where Guayaquil is located, is a hotspot that makes up about 70% of infections in the country. More than 200 people have died in Ecuador, and President Lenin Moreno estimated last week that Guayas alone could see about 3,500 more deaths. Already, funeral systems have been overwhelmed by the mortality rate.
NBC Latino reported that some families had to keep loved ones’ bodies in their own homes until authorities were able to remove them properly. Others—as grim and hard-to-watch social media videos show—have had to keep their dead on the ground outside their homes while waiting for more space in morgues and burial areas to become available.
The government is working on measures to accommodate the growing number of fatalities, according to Reuters. They’re preparing an emergency burial ground on donated land in Guayaquil and plan to bury about 100 people a day in the area, which can accommodate about 2,000 plots. Space has also been made available at two public cemeteries in the area that can hold roughly 12,000 plots.
“At the cemetery, they will be buried person by person, without cost to the families,” Jorge Wated, a Guayaqui official coordinating the response, told Reuters.
Still, families are grappling with other difficulties: There’s currently a shortage of wooden coffins in Ecuador, which continues to make burials difficult. Some people have turned to cardboard boxes given to them by cemeteries. The government started distributing these as well to meet demands, according to CNN.
Officials have said they’re committed to providing “dignified burial to deceased nationals.” But the situation is a heartbreaking and sobering reminder of what many countries, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, are facing as the pandemic reaches their borders.